©AES-F From the series - Action Half Life
While much contemporary art appears trapped within a narcissistic bubble toiling under self-reflexive dilemmas, there's art emerging from war zones that slices through abstractions to the violent dramas of reality.
Inspiration from real life in volatile regions of the Middle East can bring new meaning to what it is to be a tortured artist. Iraqi artist Halim Al-Karim, defying Saddam's compulsory military conscription during the first Gulf War, hid in the desert for 3 years in a hole in the ground surviving on food brought to him by Bedouins. His experience gives him empathic power to express the anxieties of his subjects. Many of his prints depict veiled or gagged men and women, their identities masked or blurred, radiating with mute terror.
© Halim Al-Karim 'Urban Witness' Series
Churchtank Type 8 mixed media assemblage 2010 © Kris Kuksi
Even artists who are apolitical in their work cannot but be affected by the increased proliferation of war imagery in the media, and subconscious mirroring of violence in the cyber-world. But veterans exposed to battlefield-trauma, suffering from PTSD, might feel more drawn to the emotive power of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Titus Andronicus or ancient Greek theater than the slick, contemporary dramatizations of televised warfare. The group Theater of War, currently presents ancient Greek drama for military audiences, believing that the classical plays were originally written about combat veterans, and that their communal story-telling had therapeutic power.
The art collective AES+F began their Islamic project in 1996, well before the September 11th strikes, tapping into the western fear of Islam, exploring the idea of an Islamic jihad that would engulf western cities.
German-born English artist Karin Sabine Krommes' work explores the cold, detailed precision of wartime aircraft design and the implied violence of its machinery. London-born Lebanese artist Zena el Khalil says of her own artwork, "I was born in war. Everything around me now is war. War has always been. I cannot remember a time when there was no war." Her mixed media artwork feminizes military men, sexualizes and homoeroticizes objects of warfare, AK-47s, and diffuses their brutality with fluffy pink barbie doll imagery. The two women's response to violence and war cannot be more differently expressed.
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